November 27, 2012

An Interview with The Happy Herbivore!

It is unbelievable to me that I am nearing my first anniversary as a herbivore. When I first decided to go plant-based on December 31. 2011, it was a New Year Resolution. I half expected that like all of my previous resolutions, this one would fall by the wayside, just as those belonging to millions of people across the world. The reason I decided to go plant-based was because I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to be healthier. My endocrinologist, at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, had been recommending that I go back to my Indian dietary roots, at every visit, for a few years by then. He provided recipes, book recommendations, and himself as an example. Him and his wife, decided to go Vegan after reading The China Study - and he suggested I read it. I did and was inspired to begin my plant based journey because of it. 

Then in January of 2012, I accidentally came across The Happy Herbivore website while searching for a recipe for Butternut Squash. It was, for me, a life-changing moment. Lindsay made it seem so easy and so doable. I bought both her cookbooks that same month and joined her New Herbies Page on Facebook. I asked her a question on her page and was so pleasantly surprised that she responded within a few hours with her honest and very encouraging advice. And that was it ... I was a fan!! 

Lindsay Nixon - The Happy Herbivore!
This past year, Lindsay and her recipes have been a constant in my life. She has always been ready to provide advice and recipes. It has been a pleasure to get to cyber-know her :) This past week I had the opportunity to interview her just before she begins her official blog tour for her latest cookbook Happy Herbivore Abroad.

Rugrat Chow! - What prompted you to go plant-based and why do you think you were so successful at it? 

Happy Herbivore - I was a vegetarian for most of my life, but lapsed back to meat-eating in my late teens due to family pressure and peer pressure. A serious health scare in my early 20's brought me back to a vegetarian diet and about a year later I adopted a totally plant-based (vegan) diet. I was motivated mainly for health reasons, but I also care about the environment and am moved by the plight of farm animals. Eating a plant-based diet has always been easy for me -- and seeing the results -- how I look and feel, getting rid of all my medical "issues" is all the motivation I ever need to stay plant-based. I couldn't hurt myself, or an animal. 

Rugrat Chow! - Did you always love to cook and experiment in the kitchen? Do you have any culinary training, or are you all self-taught? 

Happy Herbivore - When I went off to college I didn't even know how to make scrambled eggs. I tried to cook once, but the food was so bad my roommate and I almost broke our teeth eating it! A few years later, when I married, my mom said I needed to learn how to make at least one really good dish in case my husband ever wanted to bring his boss for dinner. I bought a cookbook, picked out a recipe, Went to the store then spent about 5 hours in the kitchen. It was edible, but nothing special -- certainly not worth it for all the time it took. So I declared myself a "non-cook" and my husband cooked all of our meals. When I went vegetarian, he was agreeable. He cooked vegetarian meals at home, but ate meat out. Then when I went vegan (plant-based) he threw his hands in the air saying he had no idea what to cook for me. If I was going to eat, I was going to have to go to the kitchen and cook. Every small success gave me the courage to cook again. and again. Eventually I fell in love with cooking and started developing my own recipes and style. By then, my husband was plant-based too, but happily deferred all the cooking to me! 

Happy Herbivore Abroad
Official Release Date: Dec 4, 2012
Available NOW at
Rugrat Chow! - I personally struggle with sweet things like Cookies and Scones. What did you struggle with the most when you first went plant-based? 

Happy Herbivore - I missed the convenience. Previously, if I was hungry I'd walk into the first deli, pizza stand, coffee shop, fast food place, etc. I passed and get something. That's no-longer the case. Though I'm happy about the slight inconvenience in some respects. I take more time and consideration about what I'm putting in my body. I look for the healthiest option, not the fastest one. Perhaps most importantly - I can pass a bakery without going in for "just one cookie" and leaving with a dozen. My relationship with food has changed for the better.  

Rugrat Chow! - Are you 100% strict with your plant-based lifestyle. If so, how do you manage that mentally and emotionally? 

Happy Herbivore - Yes. My sister used to be in weight watchers and she had this great quote "nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels" and I think I'd add nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels. You never realize how crappy you felt until you see what it feels like to be well. I could never give up that feeling. It would also weigh too heavily on my heart. Animal products come from cruel places. 

Rugrat Chow! - You have written quite a few posts about eating out and when attending a gathering as a guest, how is it that you avoid temptation? Do you ever think “oh it’s just one cookie ..”! 

Happy Herbivore - No. I don't see, say, a cookie, and think "it's just one cookie." I see the casein in it which causes cancer. I see the cholesterol in it that causes heart disease. I see the horrors of the industry. I remember that eat bite of animal product - no matter how small - is a vote for ill health. It's so easy to walk away. Plus they don't taste that good anyway. If I want a cookie, I'll go home and make a plant-based one. Then I can eat it and without the guilt or ill side effects.

Rugrat Chow! - For those of us who are new to this, what is your biggest piece of advice when going plant-based? 

Happy Herbivore - Just do it. Take it a meal at a time. Don't get caught up with over thinking. Worry about this meal, right now -- not what you're doing tomorrow, or next week or next Christmas. Never think in "Can't haves" -- it's not that you can't have it, it's that you're choosing not to. Also, focus on all the food you can have, not what you're choosing to give up. I eat a wider variety of food now on a plant-based diet than I ever did on an omnivorous one! 

Rugrat Chow! - Since you had a successful career as a lawyer before, what was the turning point in your life? When did you decide to go all in? 

Happy Herbivore - I started blogging in 2007, when I was still in law school. It was a creative outlet for me. Even after I'd graduated and taken the bar exam, blogging continued to be my hobby. As time wore on I realized I liked blogging and cooking way more than I liked being a lawyer, but my hands were tied... until I had the opportunity to write my first cookbook. 

I knew there was no way I could work as a lawyer AND write a cookbook, so it was one or the other. I decided to take a big chance, quit being a lawyer and work on my cookbook while also doing various freelance assignments to pay the bills. My husband and I also had to do some major downsizing to make it happen -- selling our cars, moving from a large apartment to a teeny, tiny studio, etc. (I'm so glad he was up for it!) 

Rugrat Chow! - Where do you find your inspiration? With regards to recipes, when eating out, do you eye other people’s plates (omnivores) and consider a possible conversion (LOL!)? 

Happy Herbivore - With my first book, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook, I set out to recreate dishes ("comfort foods") that I used to eat -- but in a new healthy and plant-based way. With my second book, Everyday Happy Herbivore, I went back to basics. I looked at whatever ingredients I had on hand, then created a meal (or meals) out of it. With my new book, Happy Herbivore Abroad, I recreated meals I ate or saw on my travels... I made international cuisine healthy and plant-based -- and with everyday ingredients. 

I generally mind my own business and just lead by example, but if someone asked me a question or struck a conversation, I'd talk to them about it. I've had a lot of success "converting" people around me, just by being an example. 

Rugrat Chow! - How did it feel when your parents went plant-based? Do you consider that one of your biggest achievements? 

Happy Herbivore - I was relieved. In the end, the decision was theirs. You can't make people do something -- what's that saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink? Goodness did I try with them. For years. They had to come to it on their own. They're doing amazing. My mom is off her cholesterol meds now. Life is good. They were, perhaps, the most skeptical, and are now the biggest believers. Their lives have totally changed. 

Rugrat Chow! - Lindsay was also so kind and provided a recipe (from her new book) to share. 

Moroccan Vegetables 

Serves 2 (Quick· Fat-free · Gluten-free· Soy-free · Budget · One-Pot Meal)

Tagine (also spelled tajine) is one of Morocco’s most popular vegetarian dishes, though if you travel to Morocco, don’t always assume vegetable tagine is vegetarian; it may be cooked in a lamb-based broth. Nevertheless, tagine is aromatic and delicious, and 20-some different ingredients could show up in any given recipe! (I have to applaud recipes where anything goes!)

Moroccan Vegetables - from Happy Herbivore Abroad
In my interpretation of tagine, I kept it simple with basic vegetables and core Moroccan spices. Serve tagine over quinoa or whole wheat couscous. For a complete meal, add chickpeas. 

  1. 1 cup vegetable broth 
  2. 1 tbsp tomato paste \
  3. Dash of ground cinnamon 
  4. Dash of ground ginger 
  5. ½ tsp ground cumin 
  6. ½ tsp ground coriander 
  7. ¼ tsp paprika 
  8. ½ red onion, diced 
  9. 1 carrot, skinned and sliced 
  10. 1 zucchini, sliced 
  11. 1 yellow squash, sliced 
  12. ¼ cup raisins, chopped 
  13. Dash cayenne pepper 
In a measuring cup, whisk broth with tomato paste, a few dashes of cinnamon and ginger, cumin, coriander, and paprika until well combined. Line a skillet with a thin layer of the broth mixture and sautĂ© onions and carrots over high heat until onions are softer and translucent. Add remaining broth and vegetables, plus raisins, stirring to combine. Once boiling, cover and reduce to low and simmer until vegetables are fork-tender but not mush, about 5–7 minutes. Enough liquid should be left to coat everything, but if not, add a splash of water or vegetable broth. Add cayenne as desired plus salt to taste. 

Nutritional Information (Per Serving): Calories 127, Total Fat 0.7g, Carbohydrates 30.5g, Fiber 4.7g, Sugars 18.3g, Protein 4.0g.

About Lindsay (from Lindsay Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. She is the author of two bestselling cookbooks, The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and Everyday Happy Herbivore. Her third book, Happy Herbivore Abroad, will be released in December 2012. Learn more about Nixon and try some of her recipes at

Lindsay, Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to interview you. And thank you for being such a wonderful resource and inspiration to us New Herbies! Thanks to you I'm ~25 lbs lighter, & happier with my body than I've been in a long time :)!!!

1 comment:

  1. Best interview to date! You ladies did a great job and a great reminder why we are Herbies: It's Lindsay's genuine warmth and her easy approach to plant-based eating. I discovered Happy Herbivore in much the way Pragati did and Lindsay's philosophy has become my own: "Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels". It's just not worth it and I can make something plant-based that is just as good and enjoy it without guilt or ill effects.

    Thank you for this wonderful interview. It was a joy to read.